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Posted Feb. 20, 2012


Funky Turns Forty: Black Character Revolution Traveling Exhibition Hits Pittsburgh

The Museum Of UnCut Funk announces that Funky Turns 40: Black Character Revolution, it's traveling Black animation exhibition, has opened at the ToonSeum in Pittsburgh, Pa. This show will run through March 10, 2012. The official opening event was held January 27, 2012.

Funky Turns 40: Black Character Revolution commemorates the 40th anniversaries of 1970's Saturday Morning cartoons that featured positive Black characters for the first time in television history. The exhibition includes original production cels and drawings used to produce these cartoons that represent several historical firsts, such as:

  • First positive Black male character in a Saturday morning cartoon series - Peter Jones - The Hardy Boys (1969)
  • First positive Black female character in a Saturday morning cartoon series - Valerie Brown - Josie And The Pussycats (1970)
  • First positive Black cast Saturday morning cartoon series - first positive Black cast Saturday morning cartoon series featuring Black athletes - Harlem Globetrotters (1970)
  • First positive Black cast Saturday morning cartoon series featuring Black musicians - The Jackson 5ive (1971)
  • Longest running positive Black cast Saturday morning cartoon series - Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids (1972-1985)
  • First Black male superhero character in a Saturday morning cartoon - second School House Rock episode to feature Black Characters - Verb (1974)
  • First Black female superhero character in a Saturday morning cartoon series - Astrea - Space Sentinels (1977)


The show is comprised of 40 pieces of art from The Museum Of UnCut Funk Black Animation archive.

"These cartoons are National Treasures", comments Pamela Thomas, Curator of The Museum Of UnCut Funk. "They were seen by a generation of children and not only changed the way that Black kids saw themselves but the way White kids saw them as well", says Thomas.

As background, from 1900 to 1960, over 600 cartoon shorts featuring Black characters were produced by some of Hollywood’s greatest White animators and biggest film studios. These theatrical cartoon film shorts portrayed Blacks in a racially derogatory and stereotypical manner as cannibals, coons, mammies and Stein Fetchit characters with exaggerated features and ignorant dialect. Several famous Black jazz musicians such as Cab Calloway, Fats Waller and Louis Armstrong were also portrayed as stereotypical caricatures. 

In the 1950’s, several of these racist cartoons were shown on television. As a result of the civil rights movement, in the 1960’s the racial content of many of these cartoons was edited out or the cartoons were pulled from television altogether. Notably, The Censored Eleven, a group of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons were banned from broadcast because they were deemed to be too offensive for contemporary audiences. In the case of The Censored Eleven, racist themes were so essential and so completely pervasive in the cartoons that no amount of selective editing could ever make them acceptable for distribution.

It wasn't until the late 1960's / 1970’s that for the first time Black children could see cartoon characters that looked, talked and acted more realistically like them, such as Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, as well as more positive depictions of their favorite Black music icons and sports heroes like The Jackson 5ive featuring Michael Jackson and his brothers, The Harlem Globetrotters and I Am The Greatest featuring Muhammad Ali. For the first time Black children were able to see their cartoon role models teach positive messages like family values, the importance of education, friendship, civic duty, personal responsibility and sportsmanship. 


Travelers, visit The Museum Of Uncut Funk website - www.museumofuncutfunk.com




Visit the ToonSeum website - www.toonseum.org





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